Whiston Hospital will soon offer the biggest stroke service in Cheshire and Merseyside after it agreed to take in all patients from Warrington.
Since 2017, all patients from across the catchment area of both Whiston and Warrington who called an ambulance with a suspected stroke within the treatment time window for thrombolysis – a type of stroke treatment – were brought to the specialist hyperacute stroke unit at Whiston Hospital.
Patients from the Warrington and Runcorn areas who require further rehabilitation in a hospital setting are then transferred to Warrington Hospital once they are clinically stable.
It has now been agreed that, from April, all patients within the Warrington catchment area will be assessed and treated at Whiston Hospital.
An update on the expansion of the stroke service was provided to the trust’s board meeting this week.
Professor Kevin Hardy, the trust’s medical director, said the move will make Whiston Hospital’s hyperacute stroke unit “by far” the biggest stroke service in Cheshire and Merseyside.
During the meeting, concerns were raised over any potential issues relating to the transferral of patients back to Warrington Hospital.
Prof Hardy said: “We have at times had issues with repatriation and we kind of recognise that and it’s built into our plans.
“Warrington, previously they were on occasions, because of pressures perhaps, reticent about bringing people back in when they’ve got people in their A&E department.
“They’re now extremely keen because of the funding arrangements to make sure that they get their people back.
“The bigger issue for us arguably is some of the patients then express a preference to stay here. It’s a bit difficult really.”
Ann Marr, chief executive of the trust, said the change to the stroke service is a “much bigger step” than the one in 2017.
Currently, the hyperacute stroke unit sees around 900 confirmed stroke patients per year.
The new model, which is similar to the models already employed in Manchester and London, will see the number of confirmed stroke patients increase to around 1,150.
During the board meeting, concerns were raised that this could impact the performance of the stroke unit, which is one of the best in the country.
Ms Marr said the trust must ensure the hospital has the bed capacity and the staff to take in the additional patients.
The chief executive added that the trust must establish a “resilient” pathway that will enable it to return patients back to Warrington Hospital.